FREMONT -- As Les Mahler visited his former high school over the years, he grew increasingly bothered that John F. Kennedy High School had nothing honoring classmates who died in the Vietnam War.
"They didn't have anything about the Vietnam at all," said Mahler, 64. "And that got me kind of angry."
That will change Friday, when school leaders unveil a plaque at Kennedy High in memory of Chuck Hinton and Terry Anderson, school alumni killed in 1970 while serving in Vietnam.
Anderson, class of 1966, was an Army helicopter pilot who died in Phuoc Long. He was 21. Hinton, class of 1968, was a Marine killed in battle in Quang Nam. He was 19.
They were two of more than 58,000 American casualties in Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.
Anderson, a member of the football and wrestling teams, was friendly and had an uncommon sensitivity that made him the opposite of the jock stereotype, Mahler said. "Terry was the guy people went to for advice or if they just needed to talk," he said. "He was easygoing and super friendly."
Classmates say Hinton had a laid-back charisma who, despite his good looks, did not take himself too seriously. That changed, however, when he stepped on the football field for Kennedy High. "He was fast and loved to block and tackle people," said Frank Lombardo, a former teammate. "He left everything he had on the football field."
The public ceremony honoring the fallen soldiers would not be taking place if not for Mahler's dogged work, school leaders say. He spent years enlisting help from Kennedy alumni to properly honor their classmates.
"When I told Vietnam veterans about our goal, they said it reminded them of the '60s and '70s when the attitude was, 'Forget Vietnam,'" Mahler said. "There's a lot of pain and anger from that era. It's a very big scar."
Kennedy High School Principal Edward Velez said that when he speaks at the unveiling, he will think of his father, a Vietnam War veteran who recently passed away.
"I understand the importance of veterans knowing that their community remembers them," Velez said. "With the ceremony, hopefully we're able to come full circle and give a little closure to those in the community."
The public is invited to the ceremony, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Kennedy High, 39999 Blacow Road. Those attending must sign in beforehand at the school office, district leaders said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
A public ceremony and plaque unveiling honoring two Kennedy High alumni killed in the Vietnam War will begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the school, 39999 Blacow Road, Fremont.